A Deaf Athlete’s Perspective On Sound Tops Quarterly Music Chart
JR Narrows
"On Silent Ice" episode of Android docuseries brings us into a special hockey rink

Hybrid agency/production house Where the Buffalo Roam (WTBR) turned out five episodes of an animated Android docuseries, Being Human Is, for Google Marketing, pooling together artists and creative companies across four continents and seven time zones. This ambitious show’s first installment, “On Silent Night,” thrusts us into the world of deaf hockey and earns distinction as being named the #1 entry in SHOOT’s latest quarterly Top Ten Tracks Chart.

“On Silent Ice” bring us to place unfamiliar to many, opening up our eyes and ears. From a practical standpoint, the episode also showcases how the Live Transcribe feature on a deaf hockey player’s Android phone allows him to connect in real time with professional scouts who are looking for stellar rink talent.

JR Narrows of Brooklyn-based Space Lute served as composer, audio director, sound supervisor and sound designer for “On Silent Ice.” He shared with SHOOT the biggest creative challenges the episode posed to him. Narrows related, “Designing sound for a surreal, action-sports piece through the perspective of our hero Anthony, a deaf person, was a unique challenge. How does one design suspense and motion within a limited sonicscape? How does someone do this justice, especially without relying on silence? We were inspired by Anthony’s perspective - how he feels the crowd’s energy, quite literally, vibrating through the ice. From skates slashing to stomps to the million-eyed-beast (the arena crowd), feeling sound through texture became key. The wide, growling low end became just as important as metallic skates and referee whistles. Moments of silence became our moments of grace, power, and ultimately, climax.”

As for the music, Narrows said, “The score had its own obstacles. We needed to find instruments that, like a hockey game, could exhibit both chaos and virtuosity, while maintaining a strong physicality. Our answer was a pairing of baritone saxophone and drums. Two instruments that are felt, maybe even more than they are heard. Baritone sax became our melodic focus, performed by Philly-based Mark Allen, which felt simultaneously wild and precise--all while shaking you to your core. Percussion evolved into the spine of the piece with Brooklyn-based drummer Steven Bartashev playing drums and concert snare--instilling a sense of speed, motion, and mastery. We ended up with something unique that I’m very proud of--a sort of ambient-jazz-marching band that fits the surreal, animated sports-doc genre quite nicely.”

Oddfellows in Portland, Ore., served as animation studio with Nico Carbonaro and Tuesday McGowan co-directing “On Silent Ice” via Oakland, Calif.-based WTBR (Carbonaro is repped by bicoastal Nonfiction Unlimited). The directors brought Narrows on very early in the process and started experimenting with music and sound before a single shot was boarded out. Thus the tone was set by the audio which inspired the illustrator and animators as they crafted imagery. Directors Carbonaro and McGowan said they aimed to create a world where sound design and music were truly inseparable and indistinguishable from one another: where a skate scraping across the ice felt like part of the percussive nature of a song, and where a booming saxophone might mimic the vibrations the deaf players feel from fans stomping their feet in the stands.

The directors added that in that the docuseries told stories that spanned the globe, they decided to eschew a cohesive musical direction for the show in favor of a bespoke approach for each episode--inspired in equal parts by the location and the subject matter of each story.

Terressa Tate of NY-based shop Machine served as audio post mixer. Her Machine support team included sound assistant Amanda Fuentes, sr. producer Alek Roost and audio producer Kyra Hendricks.

To view the quarterly Top Ten Tracks Chart, click here.


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